A hearing into the proposed extradition of Ian Bailey to France, where he is facing a 25-year prison sentence for the murder of filmmaker Sophie Toscan du Plantier, is still expected to take place in early May.
The High Court fixed May 5 as the start-date for the three-day hearing last month, but the outbreak of the coronavirus has placed many court cases in doubt.
The President of the High Court has given a general practice direction that only urgent business be dealt with at present to minimise the number of people attending court.
Mr Justice Donald Binchy, who is in charge of international extradition cases, said he was inclined to keep the dates fixed for Mr Bailey’s case for the moment, given that three days had already been set aside.
The case was previously listed for mention on March 30 to ascertain whether the hearing will proceed. It will now be mentioned on April 20 to ascertain whether the hearing will proceed.
French authorities are seeking Mr Bailey’s surrender in relation to the death of Ms du Plantier, whose badly beaten body was found outside her holiday home in Schull in December 1996. It is the third time French authorities have sought Mr Bailer’s surrender.
The 63-year-old Englishman, with an address at The Prairie, Liscaha, Schull, west Cork, was convicted of the Frenchwoman’s murder in his absence in a Paris court in May 2019. The three-judge Cour d’Assises in Paris accordingly imposed a 25-year prison sentence on him in his absence.
Mr Bailey denies any involvement in the mother-of-one’s death. He did not attend the French court and had no legal representation in the proceedings, which he has described as a “farce”.
The High Court previously fixed May 5 as the start-date for the three-day hearing, which was retained today. Mr Bailey was not present in court for the list management procedure.
His senior counsel, Ronan Munro SC, previously told the judge that they will be opposing surrender on grounds related to “fundamental rights” and that the authorities’ previous two extradition attempts were “relevant” to their points of objection to the present attempt.
The court has also heard that Mr Bailey swore an affidavit setting out certain factual matters, particularly in relation to his health.
The Supreme Court refused to extradite Mr Bailey in 2012 and a second French extradition request in respect of My Bailey was dismissed as an “abuse of process” by the High Court in 2017.
On that occasion, Mr Justice Tony Hunt held that the “unique features” of the case justified “termination” of the proceedings.
Mr Justice Hunt said Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions had concluded “long ago that there is no basis for either (a) charge or trial on this matter in this jurisdiction, and unusually, a comprehensive statement of reasons for this prosecutorial decision came into the public domain during the previous Supreme Court” case.